Harper Lee’s Classic Novel Takes the Stage at Bellevue Little Theatre

Bellevue Little Theatre ( 203 W. Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE) will present the classic the classic and timely  play To Kill a Mockingbird the weekends of Nov. 6-22. Performances are scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM.

Reservations are strongly recommended and may be made by calling the theatre at 402-291-1554 between the hours of 10 am and 4:30 PM Monday thru Saturday.  Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $10 for students with proper id.

Lorie Obradovich is directing this classic, with Robin Klusmire and Pam Matney serving as producers. Tony White is stage manager.  Nancy Ross is in charge of costumes and Wes Clowers is the set builder.  Lighting design will be done by Tom Reardon, and sound design by Dan Baye.  Baye will also be sound technician and Wayne Matney will be lighting technician.

Featured in the cast are Jodi Bagley, Mayella Ewell; Dan Baye, Nathan Radley; Phyllis Bonds, Miss Stephanie; John Carlson, Atticus Finch; Karen Codes, Mrs. Dubose; Zoey Dittmer, Scout Finch; Will Jones, Dill Harris; Deb Kelly, Miss Maudie;Paul Kelly, Mr. Gilmore; Fred Kracke, Boo Radley; Tim Livers, Bob Ewell; Manuel Marquez, Clerk; Jarell Roach, Tom Robinson; Phyllis Mitchell-Butler, Calpurnia; Gary Planck, Mr. Cunningham; Carl Brooks, Rev. Sykes; Wes Clowers, Heck Tate; Aidan Schmidtke, Jem Finch; Larry Wroten, Judge Taylor.

Please note that the original language from the novel will be used, and that may be offensive to some.

This drama, based on the acclaimed Pulitzer Award winning novel by Harper Lee, is set in Alabama during the 1930’s.  The play follows Atticus Finch and his crusade to bring justice to a black man accused of raping a white woman.  The ensuing drama brings racial prejudice to the spotlight in the small town.  Atticus struggles to explain his defense of the man to his family, especially to his young daughter, Scout, as she and her brother, Jem, try to understand the problems of injustice which her father is trying to overcome. In addition the children are exposed to a neighbor who is ‘different’, and learn through his actions that ‘different’ doesn’t mean evil or threatening.

The Madness Begins

BLUE BARN THEATRES WALK THE NIGHT RETURNS

The BLUEBARN Theatre is proud to present Walk the Night…Where Madness Lies. The next installment of its immersive event series is located within a converted century-old convent at 1310 N.29th Street (called “The Starlight Chateau”).  Walk the Night creator, Spencer Williams, co-directs with founding company choreographer, Wai Yim;with set design by Homero Vela and Hilary Williams, lighting design by Homero Vela, costume design by Lora Kaup, sound design by Bill Grennan, and properties design by Spencer Williams.

Shows run Oct. 28 – Nov. 21; Wednesday-Saturday, twice nightly at 7:00 p.m. and again at 8:30 p.m.  Preshow begins at 6:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Single tickets for Walk the Night: Where Madness Lies are $20 for a single performance; $35 for both performances each night. Discounts can be discovered in the pre-show and throughout the city at one of two participating locations: House of Loom (1012 South 10th St.); and Spielbound (3229 Harney St.).

About WALK THE NIGHT: WHERE MADNESS LIES

 Walk the Night: Where Madness Lies is an alternate, edited interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear. In the story, Lear (played by Moira Mangiameli) begins to enter retirement, by dividing her assets between her three daughters, proceeding to announce so publicly. Cordelia, her only trustworthy daughter, denies an oath of complete and utter submission to Lear. The matriarch casts Cordelia out, ostracizing herself from her true friends and laying trust in plotting elder daughters, Goneril and Regan. Lear’s world unravels as the two daughters betray their oaths, and the world descends into destruction with only a handful of survivors. This rendition is a story of people haunted by elements known and unknown, blurring the lines between flaws and demonic possessions, reality and fantasy; it is the story of a descent into madness.

About the Format for WALK THE NIGHT: WHERE MADNESS LIES

The venue is the virtual entirety of a convent, built in 1903. The events occur in real time, throughout the rooms. There are no theatre seats. Audiences are free to explore and follow any of the fifteen stories as they happen. Masks are required and provided at the door. Comfortable footwear is recommended.

About the Stars of WALK THE NIGHT: WHERE MADNESS LIES

Walk the Night: Where Madness Lies features a diverse cast, playing against cultural expectations.  Leading the company as Lear (traditionally played by a man) is award-winning actress Moira Mangiameli. Others members are Josh Doucette, Teri Fender, John Hatcher, Regina Palmer, Cassi Moucka, Aaron Ellis, Andre McGraw, Regina Palmer (all returning company members), as well as Ben Beck, Jenna Briggs, Raydell Cordell III, Britta Tollefsrud, Ryann Woods, Cara Walters, and Nick Zadina.

About The BLUEBARN Theatre

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since 1989. Since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company. Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons.

In Search of the Truth

September 11, 2001 was one of the most horrific days in American history.  But what if there was a deeper, darker truth to what happened on that sad day?  What are the ramifications of knowing the real truth?  This is the thrust of Yankee Tavern by Steve Dietz and currently playing at the Circle Theatre.

I don’t usually go into a play blind.  By that I mean I know the general story before I sit down to watch it.  But the only knowledge I had of Yankee Tavern was that it centered around 9/11 and conspiracy theories.  This play is far more than that.  This play is an exciting mystery thriller with comedic undertones that will keep you on the edge of your seat as it twists and turns with compelling characters and electric dialogue until the final moment.

Ryle Smith’s direction is a superior piece of work as he expertly navigates the ebbs and flows of this story, builds beautiful tension, and sets a firecracker pace.  Smith has also directed fantastic performances from his cast of four with each having a sizzling chemistry with the others, making for a sensational ensemble experience.

Smith also does double duty by playing the role of Adam Graves, an adjunct instructor and political writer who also owns the titular Yankee Tavern.  Smith’s Adam is an incredibly multifaceted character.  He’s a bit of a prankster as he messes with his wife, Janet (played by Rose Glock), by making up fake guests to invite to their upcoming anniversary party.  Smith also bestows a wonderful intelligence and logic on Adam which is best demonstrated in his verbal spars with his late father’s best friend, Ray (played by David Sindelar) as they debate about what really happened on 9/11.

But Adam also carries his share of darkness and secrets as he is unable to accept his father’s suicide and has a connection with a former female boss which may be far more than employer/employee.  Smith handles these heavier moments with equal sureness, especially in a climactic argument with Janet in Act II.

David Sindelar gives an award worthy performance in the role of Ray.  A self-professed “itinerant homesteader”, Ray, at first, seems like he’s going to be the kooky comedy relief as he lives in the abandoned Yankee Hotel, talks with ghosts, and sees conspiracies everywhere.  But once Ray and Adam start arguing over 9/11, that’s when you see this character’s true intellect.

Ray’s arguments are amazingly persuasive because they are grounded in logic and verifiable facts.  You may not necessarily believe them, but it does give you something to think about.  The arguments are helped by Sindelar’s sincere delivery.  Sindelar also gets to show some pathos and depth when he talks about why his wife left him and the events of his best friend’s last day of life which demonstrate why Ray’s world is preferable to real life.

It is an arduous role because Ray likes to talk, dissect, analyze, and expound.  The sheer bulk of the dialogue caused Sindelar to trip on his lines on a couple of occasions, but he didn’t let it slow him down or get him off track.

Rose Glock is, at turns, sweet, harried, and haunted as Janet.  Janet is on the same intellectual plane as Adam and Ray and is able to hold her own in their conspiracy theory debates.  But she also has a peculiar form of survivor’s guilt because she didn’t lose anybody in 9/11 which leads to a relationship with an unseen character that causes Janet to have an intense loathing of secrets.  Ms Glock handles the emotional beats of the character well and really gets to shine in Act II with intense showdowns with Adam and the mysterious Palmer.

Kevin Barratt’s interpretation of Palmer is underplayed mastery.  He rarely speaks in Act I, but has a hypnotic presence.  He sits quietly at the bar with two Rolling Rocks, toasts an unseen companion, and seems to be grappling with a heavy burden.  Barratt has tremendously animated eyes that let you watch his shifting emotions without him uttering a single word.  When he finally does speak, he is so soft spoken and earnest that it’s hard to determine if he’s a crackpot or if he truly does know things that he probably shouldn’t know.

Barratt really ramps things up in act II during a prolonged verbal battle with Janet over Adam and his possible connection to a potential key figure in 9/11.  What I found utterly fascinating about Barratt’s take on Palmer is that he is looking for absolution, not revenge.  He has knowledge that he would rather not have, but must seek the truth out to the end for the sake of his soul.

There are few things I love more than a good mystery and this play gave that to me and then some.  This show is about so much more than whether there was more to 9/11 than met the eye.  It is a show about the secrets we keep from each other and that is something that will strike the heart of anybody who watches this play.

Yankee Tavern has one final performance on October 30 at 8pm.  The Circle Theatre is producing this show at First United Methodist Church at 7020 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.  For reservations, contact the Circle at 402-553-4715 or via e-mail at dlmarr@cox.net.  Tickets cost $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, and $10 for students, active military, and T.A.G. members.

Tepid, Tiresome Tale Dooms Dracula

When Dr. Seward’s daughter, Lucy, begins exhibiting the same symptoms that preceded the death of her friend, Mina, Dr. Seward calls in his old friend, Professor Van Helsing for help.  Van Helsing suspects the work of a vampire and it is up to the two doctors and Lucy’s fiancée, Jonathan Harker, to discover the vampire and save Lucy from certain doom.  This is the plot of Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker and currently playing at the Chanticleer Theater.

This is, quite possibly, the dullest script I have ever seen produced on a metro area stage.  Even by the standards of the year this play was written, 1924, it isn’t scary.  It’s a sitting room melodrama and that is not suited to a gothic tale like Dracula.  Aside from the lack of scares, Deane and Balderston have done the cast and audience no favors by leaping straight into the action with no sense of build and eliminating 3 crucial characters from the story though the presence of one, Mina Murray, is felt throughout the play.  The tension is nearly non-existent and the resolution is anti-climactic.

I tip my hat to Daena Schweiger and her group of actors for a valiant effort in trying to do something with this script, but it hates them with a passion and practically defies them to do anything with it.  It truly is a pity as Ms Schweiger’s direction is of very good quality.  The show is well staged, well paced, and Ms Schweiger has guided her actors to mostly very good to excellent performances.

Andy Niess shone in the role of Renfield, Dracula’s insane servant.  Arguably the most well developed character in the play, the script still tries to hamstring the actor by making Renfield the clichéd slavering lackey.  Niess turns the tables on the script with a deep, multilayered performance.  He demonstrates great understanding of Renfield’s nature by leaping from sane to insane and back again at a moment’s notice.  Sometimes even within the same sentence.  When he laughs it is with purpose and it is sinister and scary.  When he begs to be restrained and sent away to protect Lucy, he is strangely sympathetic.  The only flaw in Niess’ performance is that he needs to commit more fully when Renfield physically attacks  others.  He was obviously holding back during those moments of violence.

Amanda Vyhnalek does remarkable work with the relatively one note character of Lucy Seward.  Ostensibly, she is the stereotypical damsel in distress and Dracula has already begun attacking her as the play opens.  Ms Vyhnalek communicates Lucy’s fear and sickliness well with a weary, fearful delivery and stooped body posture.  She truly gets her moment to shine when her vampiric nature begins to dominate her.  She is sultry and coy as she tries to pry the group’s plans for Dracula out of Jonathan.  Ms Vyhnalek’s diction is some of the best I’ve heard out of a local performer and she is also capable of a bloodcurdling scream guaranteed to send chills down one’s spine.

Mark Reid is pretty effective in the role of Professor Van Helsing.   I thought his soft spoken approach to Van Helsing worked especially well as it made the character’s intelligence and strength of will more pronounced.  This Van Helsing is clearly a step ahead of everyone else intellectually and it is that crucial step that makes one believe that he will defeat the evil Count.  Reid does need to be careful with his accent as it seemed to come and go and sometimes sounded more British than Dutch.

Adam Haverman does good work with his interpretation of Jonathan Harker.  Haverman has a nice, natural delivery style well suited to the earnest Harker.  He is brave and he is determined.  Haverman also reacts well to others.  A sterling example of this talent is his determination not to reveal the heroes’ pursuit of Count Dracula to Lucy despite his body language clearly indicating he wants nothing more than to do just that.

Alfred Salanitro is fairly solid in the role of Dr. Seward.  I liked the clinical air he brought to the psychiatrist as it made it very believable that this man would be very logical and not open to the idea of a supernatural beast hunting his daughter.  However, I did think he overused it a bit as, even after he accepted the reality of a vampire, he still seemed very clinical towards Lucy’s plight and I did not sense a great deal of concern for his daughter’s well-being.  Salanitro also needs to step up his volume.

Matthew Kelehan seems a bit out of his element in the title role.  He lacked the regal presence needed for the Count and he had difficulty with Dracula’s Romanian accent.  Kelehan’s interpretation also needs to be nuanced as it came off a bit stiff and wooden.

The technical pieces of the show were some of its strongest assets.  Particularly impressive was Michael Taylor Stewart’s set, the imposing stone edifice of Purley Sanitorium and Dave Podendorf’s sound design with its intense bass beats, creepy music, and haunting cries being the perfect support for a gothic story.

I’ve long said that bad writing will sink good acting each and every time and this particular story seems to support that belief.  The cast deserves much better than what this play gives them, but they certainly do give their all to the tale.

Dracula plays at the Chanticleer Theater through November 1.  Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  An additional 10:30pm performance will be given on October 30.  Tickets cost $20 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $10 for students.  For reservations, contact the Chanticleer at 712-323-9955.  The Chanticleer is located at 830 Franklin Ave in Council Bluffs, IA.  Dracula is a horror show and parental discretion is advised.

Professional Theatre vs Community Theatre: Is There a Difference?

A friend asked me for my thoughts on this article today.

I thought the writer made several valid points and it provided a whirlwind of commentary on Facebook.  Speaking as both writer and actor, I completely agree with the author’s sentiment that community theatre should be judged on exactly the same standards as a full blown professional production.  To do anything less is unfair to those who work so tirelessly to bring a show to life.  More importantly, I believe community theatre is at least as good, if not superior, to professional productions.

Theatre is far more than lights, sounds, and costumes.  Those can enhance a performance, but ultimately, theatre boils down to the simple art of storytelling.  And a well told story can be told on Broadway or in a basement.  There is no connection between talent and pay.  I’m fortunate enough to live in Omaha, NE where our talent pool is so rich and deep that many could easily earn their living through acting and directing if they had the inclination and that little bit of luck needed to really make it.

One telling thing the author of this article pointed out is that many critics operate from the mindset that community theatre is somehow lesser than a professional production and that it has to be treated with kid gloves.  That’s just silly.

I decided to start reviewing shows two years ago because I long felt that my theatre community was not getting the reviews it deserved.  So many of the reviews I read were largely summary with a little blurb of “Oh, and so and so was in it and didn’t do too badly.”  That’s not the purpose of a review.  A review should accomplish the following:

  1. It tells the reader why she or he should or should not watch the show.
  2. It helps promote the show, especially if the show is of high quality.
  3. It points out the things that make the show effective and ineffective.

Point 3 is my biggest concern when I write a review and I take great pride in the fact that I am completely fair and honest when I write up my observations.  While I freely admit that a review is simply an opinion and nothing more, I do harbor the notion that a director or actor may read my opinion and think, “He has a point, what happened here really didn’t work.  I’m going to fix that.”

I disagree with the article’s author when he says that an ineffective production needs to be called “bad” or “awful”.  Criticism is supposed to be constructive and there are ways to call out problems without destroying a production.  When I see sketchy work, I professionally point out where it goes astray and how it might be fixed.

I have a lot of faith in the toughness of actors.  We put ourselves on the line all the time.  And if we can handle the rejection of an audition, we can certainly weather a tough review.  Trust me, I’ve received a bad review or two in my time and here I stand.

At the end of the day the only difference between an amateur production and a professional production may be production values and ticket prices.  It certainly isn’t the talent.  A good story is a good story whether it is told with the best money can buy or if it’s told with a sheet and a piece of cardboard.  For those reason, community theatre needs, and deserves, the right to be judged on equal footing with a professional production.

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol. 4, Days 4-8: A Farewell to Tall Square and Arizona Mat in the Not So Wild West

In hindsight, it would have been better if I had simply checked into a hotel instead of having the cab driver return me to Arizona Mat’s house.  Arizona Mat’s house has an excellent alarm system and he has the only key.  I curled myself up by the front door and settled in for a wretched night’s sleep.

I blinked as the rays of the morning sun woke me the next day.  I yawned and mightily stretched a crick out of my back.  I heard the roar of the zambonis as they finally pulled up to Arizona Mat’s house.  Arizona Mat and Tall Square were beyond exhausted and both slowly got off the zambonis, limply punching each other in the shoulder.  I reached into Arizona Mat’s backpack and pulled out his keys.  I guided the weary frenemies into the house and let Tall Square fall in the doorway.  I proceeded to walk Arizona Mat to the alarm system, and maneuvered his finger to the numbers he pointed towards.  Then I let him collapse to the floor.

Today I saw something that I do not ordinarily see in Arizona. . .rain.  And not a gentle rainfall, but a full blown ripping storm.  There wasn’t much to do in the weather, so I spent the day inside with Arizona Mat and Tall Square who still weren’t speaking so I could enjoy some peace and quiet.

Around 1pm, Arizona Mat suddenly offered his hand to Tall Square and apologized for being such a drip.  To make it up to him, he offered him a free sandwich from Ike’s Love & Sandwiches and said he’d take us to the movies.  Tall Square, justifiably, was wary, but accepted the proffered handshake.  I sensed something was awry and decided to just observe.

So we went to Ike’s and it was probably the best sandwich I had ever eaten.  Hostilities seemed to be soothed and we went to watch Boruto, the final chapter to a long running anime series called Naruto.  It was an excellent film.  Things continued to remain calm between Tall Square and Arizona Mat and we spent the rest of the evening puttering around.

I remained suspicious of Arizona Mat’s kindness towards Tall Square the next day, especially after I saw Arizona Mat leaving the office which I was using as bedroom, giggling to himself.  He announced that he was treating us to lunch at Osaka, a teppanyaki and sushi restaurant.  Arizona Mat ordered the sushi boat which came with a large variety of delicacies and a dragon roll and a crunchy roll.

It was a delicious meal and Arizona Mat said he had a special treat for Tall Square.  The waiter brought out what Arizona Mat called a kanboo roll.  I raised an eyebrow as I was familiar with sushi types, but had never heard of a kanboo roll.  Arizona Mat offered Tall Square the roll, a sinister smirk on his face, and Tall Square wolfed it down.

Arizona Mat offers Tall Square the kanboo (amnesia) roll.

Arizona Mat offers Tall Square the kanboo (amnesia) roll.

A few minutes later, Tall Square started to look a bit befuddled.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

“Yes, except for one thing.  Do I know you two gentlemen?”

“I think we need to get him to a hospital,” I said.

“No, he’s OK,” said Arizona Mat, a smarmy grin on his face.

“What exactly is a kanboo roll?” I asked.

“It’s Japanese for amnesia.  Yet another brilliant invention from Carolyn for stopping potential threats to my glorious personage.”

“Has it ever been tested?”

“Yes, just now.”

I heaved a mighty sigh as Tall Square regressed to his 21st birthday.  Arizona Mat led Tall Square to the car and drove us to the airport.  He had purchased the first available ticket and we led Tall Square the gates.  Tall Square had continued to regress as he forgot more and more details of his life.  By the time we were  nearing the gates, Tall Square was now about 5, skipping around singing, A Tisket, A Tasket.  We got permission to assist Tall Square to his departure gate and left him on a chair, a zen-like grin on his face.  I think he had regressed to the womb.  We then left him to his own devices.

Farewell, Tall Square.

Tall Square under the influence of a kanboo roll.

Tall Square under the influence of a kanboo roll.

“Now we can have some real fun,” said Arizona Mat, gleefully rubbing his hands together.

Arizona Mat failed to elaborate until we reached his home.  On his doorstep was waiting a giant box.

“Oh, boy!  She’s here!” said Arizona Mat.

Arizona Mat ripped open the box which held a pet carrying case.  Opening the door, a friendly golden retriever mix leaped out and began licking Arizona Mat.

“Who is this?” I asked.

“This is Jojo, my new sidekick.  She’s infinitely more loyal and has ten times the brains that Tall Square ever did,” replied Arizona Mat.  “Who loves you, sweetie?” he asked, as he rubbed her belly.

Arizona Mat announced that we would be heading to Tucson the next day to have a bit of fun.  We began the trip with a visit to Old Tucson Studios.  This is still an active studio and many classic western films and TV series have been filmed here.  I thought the entrance fee of $18 was very overpriced.  You’d be hard pressed to make a day out of this place unless you were gung ho about seeing all of the little shows and events that would take place during the day.

Still it was an enjoyable visit, especially for a film buff like myself.  I watched auditions for new saloon girls as well as an old fashioned western gunfight and fistfight in a little sketch about a botched robbery.  The most entertaining moment came when Arizona Mat decided to ignore the “Don’t get too close to the animals” sign and was poked by a bull.  It was just a glancing blow, but enough to send Arizona Mat into a faint.  I made some extra money by posing Arizona Mat as a horse thief corpse and charging 25 cents per picture.

Making a little profit off of Arizona Mat.

Making a little profit off of Arizona Mat.

When Arizona Mat regained consciousness, he drove us to our hotel, The Doubletree, which was a rather nice oasis.  After settling Jojo into the room and getting an icepack for Arizona Mat’s injury, we proceeded to Dakota’s Bar and Grill.  Arizona Mat ate an avocado BLT and I munched on a jalapeno bacon chili cheeseburger.

Once we had filled our cavities, we proceeded to Golf N Stuff, a pretty decent miniature golf course.  It was a much closer contest than our last battle.  It was close until the final few holes, where Arizona Mat finally managed to build an advantage that I could not overcome.  When that ended, we returned to the hotel where I read and Arizona Mat watched football.

The next morning, we had breakfast in the Cactus Rose, one of two restaurants at the Doubletree.  I enjoyed a breakfast quesadilla that had chiles, onions, cheese, eggs, and sausage with a side of breakfast potatoes while Arizona Mat ate a Quick Start that had sausage, eggs, sourdough toast, and breakfast potatoes.

During our meal, Arizona Mat said we would be heading to the Chiricahua Mountains where we would be doing a 5 mile hike.  I was looking forward to it as I have been preparing myself for a climb up Mt Fuji in August 2016 and thought this would be a good test of my fitness level.

It was a lovely hike.  The scenery was beautiful and the weather was just right.  I was proud to say that I handled the hike very well.  It was a good first step on my journey to climb Mt Fuji.  Jojo proved to be a real trooper as she bounded about.  Arizona Mat introduced me to an interesting device called a camel pack which holds 3 liters of water.  Drinking from it is quite easy and much handier than carrying a thermos.  I’m going to have to get one for myself before climbing Mt Fuji.

The face of Cochise.

The face of Cochise.

The mighty Jojo.

The mighty Jojo.

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At the end of the hike, we hopped back into the car and began the 4 hour journey back to Phoenix.  We had a supper at Simi’s Café, an Asian cuisine eatery.  Arizona Mat had Pho and orange chicken while I had a garlic chicken stir fry.

Towards the end of the meal, Arizona Mat began to look a little befuddled.

“Are you OK, Arizona?” I asked, a smirk slowly forming on my lips.

“Do I know you, sir?”

“Yes!” I crowed.

I should probably explain.  When I saw Arizona Mat use the kanboo roll on Tall Square, I saw my chance to rid myself of this pest once and for all.  I managed to find some more of it in “Carolyn’s” office.  I ground it to a fine powder and waited for my chance.  When Arizona Mat was briefly distracted as he forked a piece of chicken, I used the sleight of hand which served me so well when I cheated Arizona Mat in poker several years ago.

I left Arizona Mat at the table where he had curled into a fetal position and was gently sucking his thumb.  I ran into the night and shouted, “Free!  Free at last!!”  I ran to the car, removed my luggage which I had placed inside before we left, and hailed a cab.

As I was driven to the airport, I sunk into the seat, a big smile on my face as I knew the Arizona Chronicles had finally come to an end at last.

The End????

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol. 4, Days 2-3: In the House of the Rising Dumb & A Day of Fighting Fun

Day 2

My first sensations were a gust of cool air blowing gently upon me.  My eyelids fluttered as my vision swam back into focus.

“Where am I?” I wondered.

I raised myself with my elbows, noting that a blanket had been placed over me.  I gazed around the room, trying to get my bearings.  The room had a familiar feel to it, but it had stuff.  Lots of stuff.  It almost looked like an office.  I tried to stand, but my legs felt wobbly.  I staggered to the door and leaned against the frame, trying to summon up some strength.  I heard grunts coming from beyond the door.  Feebly, I opened the door and used the wall to drag myself to the living room and then I saw. . .him.

It was Tall Square and he was doing push-ups.  I tried to call his name, but it came out like a choked gurgle and I fell to my knees.  Tall Square heard my squeaks and helped lay me on the couch.

Tall Square doing his morning workout.

Tall Square doing his morning workout.

“He’s awake,” said Tall Square.

Entering from the dining room was Arizona Mat.

“Ah!  My Boswell.  You don’t seem to have suffered too much from the curare.”

A surge of energy rushed through my body as my anger flared up.  I leapt upon Arizona Mat and attempted to give him a larynx massage until Tall Square pulled me off.

“Well, that’s a fine hello,” said Arizona Mat, rubbing his throat.

“Curare is a deadly poison, you fool!” I shouted.

“Not in the hands of trained experts,” countered Arizona Mat.

“Why would you drug me?  How did you even know I was coming to town?”

“Tall Square has been tailing you for months.”

“Weren’t the two of you enemies?”

“We had our differences, I admit,” said Arizona Mat.

“And what’s with this place?  You always lived kind of simply.  There’s stuff here now.  And there’s food in the fridge.”

“The difference is that I have made the greatest discovery of all.  I have found true love.”

“True love?”

“True love,” said Arizona Mat.  “Thanks to that discovery, I have become a kindler, gentler, humbler explorer.  I have made amends with Tall Square who is my sidekick once again.”

“I have a business meeting to get to,” I said.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Tall Square.  “I found the business card of your SyFy rep and posed as your administrative assistant.  I told him you were suffering from the Swahilian Flu and that you needed to reschedule.”

I sighed and accepted the inevitable.  “So who’s your new love?”

“Dr. Carolyn Langlois.  Reknowned Alzheimer’s Disease researcher.”

“Mm hmm.  And where is she?”

“Nicaragua.”

“I see.  And do you have a photo?”

“Not at the present.”

“I see.”

I decided to be gracious since I was familiar with Arizona Mat’s tendency to skew reality and not broach the matter of his “girlfriend”.

Being weakened from the curare, I spent the day resting up.  I played a few rounds of Garfield with Tall Square and Arizona Mat with Tall Square taking 2 games and I took one.  To Arizona Mat’s credit, though his teeth ground a bit, he managed to keep his ego in check.  I suspected this evened things up a bit between after their handshake battles.

Arizona Mat took Tall Square and I to Lolo’s Chicken & Waffles for lunch.  It’s a very nice place and serves some excellent soul food.  They serve the beverages in mason jars and serve some of the best catfish beignets I’ve ever tasted.  Arizona Mat also ordered some stupid fries which are fries smothered with cheese, gravy, and chicken.  Arizona Mat and Tall Square each ate Betty’s Boob (a waffle and chicken breast) while I had some chicken tenders.

I caught a quick nap in the afternoon and then Arizona Mat took Tall Square and myself to Phoenix Rock Gym.  It’s a rock climbing gym and a good place for a natural workout.  After learning the finer points of belaying and climbing, I did five climbs up the walls while Arizona Mat accomplished six.  Tall Square, who suffers from a fear of heights, did several, but was chided by Arizona Mat for his reluctance to do more.  I imagined “Carolyn” had been responsible for the peace treaty between them, but cracks were definitely beginning to appear in the cessation of hostilities.

After the gym, we went to Four Peaks Brewery when I had a bowl of beer cheese soup and an Oatmeal stout.  Arizona Mat had chicken wings and pumpkin porter.  Tall Square ate a blackened salmon BLT and sipped a mixed concoction.

The minor jet lag, curare shot, and workout had wearied me so I collapsed on the couch in “Carolyn’s” office and slept through the night.

Day 3

The next morning I walked to Fry’s grocery store to get some cash and, for reasons that now elude me, bought Arizona Mat breakfast at a nearby McDonald’s while Tall Square refused my generosity and got his own breakfast.  Afterwards Arizona Mat announced that we were going to Castles N Coasters for a gentleman’s game of mini golf.

Before the hostilities.

Before the hostilities.

For me it was a feast or famine day.  I sunk 8 holes in one, but could not accomplish squat on the other holes.  The battle was clearly going to be between Arizona Mat and Tall Square who began to snipe at each other more and more as the day wore on. Arizona Mat sunk one shot where he used his putter as a pool cue and Tall Square insisted I give him a one stroke penalty for improper use of club.

“I’ll show you an improper use of club,” said Arizona Mat under his breath.

It was a tight game until the final 18 where Arizona Mat managed to dump his opponent once and for all.

“Yes!” cried Arizona Mat.  “Once again I prove myself your superior in every way.”

Arizona Mat gloats while Tall Square prepares to brain him.

Arizona Mat gloats while Tall Square prepares to brain him.

That was a mistake.

Wielding his putter like an axe, Tall Square swung with all his might.  Arizona Mat dodged out of the way at the last second and bolted for the go-karts with Tall Square right behind him.  Arizona Mat barged in front of a line of kids and roared off in a go-kart, breaking through a gate and driving through the park.  Tall Square hopped in another and continued the pursuit.   I jumped in a third, train wreck curiosity compelling me to see this through to the very end.

Arizona Mat sped towards the bumper boats and dove into the water, swimming valiantly into a boat before zooming off.  Tall Square was hot on his heels and absconded with a boat of his own.  The sight of the two of them ramming each other whilst shouting profanities at each other is a vision that will forever be seared on my brain.

Tall Square finally managed to hit Arizona Mat with enough force to capsize him, but Arizona Mat swam under the water and pulled himself out, heading to the log flume.  Panicked, Arizona Mat quickly got into a moving flume to get away from Tall Square.  Tall Square got into the flume behind, shaking his fist angrily.  Why he didn’t wait until the ride got back around like I did, I’ll never know.

Arizona Mat dives into a log flume to escape an irate Tall Square.

Arizona Mat dives into a log flume to escape an irate Tall Square.

“I’ll get you, Arizona Mat!” snarls Tall Square.

Arizona Mat prepares to take the plunge.

Arizona Mat prepares to take the plunge.

I decided the two had expended enough energy and I got between the two after the ride.

“I thought you were a kindler, gentler, humbler Arizona Mat,” I stated.

“I am,” said Arizona Mat.

“And aren’t you his trusted sidekick?” I asked Tall Square.

“Yes,” said Tall Square.

“Then shake hands and call it a day,” I said.

The two of them looked at each other for a long moment, then shook hands, though, for a moment, it seemed like another handshake duel was about to occur.

After the fun park, Arizona Mat took us to the Gila River Arena where we watched a hockey game between the Minnesota Wild and the Arizona Coyotes.  Needless to say, Arizona Mat was pulling for the Coyotes.  Tall Square, out of pure spite, pulled for Minnesota.

Early on the game looked like it was going to be a slaughter as Minnesota slapped goal after goal into the net.  Tall Square smirked with glee as Minnesota hammered Arizona.

Arizona began to show signs of life in the 2nd period and then caught on fire in the 3rd pulling to within one.  A desperate scramble at the end to force overtime failed and Minnesota won by a score of 4 to 3.

“Eat it, Arizona!” crowed Tall Square as he mooned Arizona Mat.

“At least, I know how to putt!” Arizona Mat snapped back.

Tall Square’s face flushed red as he charged Arizona Mat.  Arizona Mat dodged and scrambled over the wall to the ice.  Slipping and sliding, he skid to a zamboni and yanked the driver from his perch.  Taking control of the wheel, Arizona Mat slowly escaped from the arena.  Not to be outdone, Tall Square slid to the other zamboni, politely asked the driver to get off as he cracked his knuckles by clenching his fist, and then continued to chase Arizona Mat.

I hailed a cab to return to Arizona Mat’s house and watched the two zambonis chase each other at 5 miles a hour into the night as I passed them.